"Please sir, two rupees," she said as she weakly presented some daily newspaper to me and mimed putting food in her mouth. Her eyes were dull. Almost dead. She was under ten years of age and perched here on the side of an overcrowded roadway, peddling whatever she could for survival.
I, on the other side of the open window, was in a taxi that was going to cost me 350 rupees. I rather not even think for one second how many rupees I just credited the last 3 nights in a 5 star hotel to without going flush, with a weight in my chest.
The taxi began to move again, but I was paralyzed.
(I have no illusions of the many faces of this coin: a few moments later, at the next intersection, two children came and begged and after another tortuous refusal, they both cracked huge mischievous smiles, the younger boy smacking me on the knee as they ran away laughing... It was not malicious, and I am not callous or over sympathetic; I laughed then too.)
The anxiety I had been feeling came from weeks of preparation for this horrible moment. Weeks of dulling my emotions, killing my heart and steeling up for the moment when another sentient human being came to me and asked for help that I could so ... SO easily and fluidly provide... and have to refuse.
Why refuse? I don't know. But the shock is tremendous.
December 30, 2007
The thoughts of Boris (a Canadian) during a taxi ride in Delhi: